Moondrop Quarks IEM.

Going back to basics this time with a budget IEM from Moondrop. Let’s see if this little sub-£10 in-ear can hold it’s own against more expensive options…

Disclaimer:
The thoughts and opinions in this review are my own unbiased and honest views.
I have not been sponsored for this publication.
Thank you to Cloris and Moondrop for sending these out to The Audiophile Cafe.

The Quarks retail at£9.89 / $12.99 ( Aliexpress )
And can be found here or on Aliexpress:
https://shenzhenaudio.com/collections/moondrop/products/moondrop-quarks-earphone-closed-anterior-cavity-micro-dynamic-driver-in-ear-earbuds

Review equipment:
Moondrop Quarks.
Astell & Kern AK70.
iBasso DX80.

Music:
Various high res FLAC files.

What’s in the box:
1x Moondrop Quarks IEMs.
1x Bag of various ear tips.
1x Velour drawstring carry pouch.
Documentation.

Spec:
Frequency Response : 4Hz-43kHz (IEC61094, Free Field)
Effective frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz (IEC60318-4, -3dB)
Sensitivity: 116dB/Nrms (@1khz)
Impedance: 16Ω+ 15% (@1khz)
THD: <1% (@1kHz)
Configuration: High performance 6mm micro-dynamic driver
Material: PC

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Build & finish:
The build and finish of these IEMs is simply, well done.
You won’t find a detachable cable here, just the basics.
But they are done very well.
The housings have a good finish with no burs or sharp edges to be found.
Actually I found zero defects with this pair which is not something other cheap in-ears can attest to!
The cable is pretty well made and feels quite robust. The housing of the stereo jack and the y-split feels solid and the cable is just as good as cable used by far more expensive IEMs.
The pouch is simple, yet it’s been professionally put together and it’s so lovely and soft.
And finally the ear tips are good, nicely formed items and the silicone is very smooth, showing no evidence of badly finished molds.
I’ve got to hand it to Moondrop, they’ve made a stellar pair of IEMs for next to nothing!

Comfort:
The first thing the Quarks have going for them, they’re so light, almost featherweight. And they’re compact. Real compact!
Combine this with a light but well made cable and some surprisingly comfy ear tips and you have a pair of IEMs that can be worn for long listening sessions and you’ll hardly notice them.

Sound:
Moondrop have created an IEM that punches well above it’s weight with a tight and punchy bass, slightly fading away in the lower end.
Mids are flat and neutral with good accuracy and clarity.
And the highs are crisp and detailed, if a touch rolled off in the higher frequencies.
The soundstage is focused with some depth of field.
Isolation/separation is good, though gets a little confused in noisier sections of music.
I found they performed best with EDM, Jazz and Rock, sounding full bodied, yet forgiving. Classical was enjoyable but lacked some of the super fine detail that I’m used to. But then I/you have to realise these are a $12.99 pair of IEMs!

Final thoughts and recommendation:
They’re $12.99.
Yet they feel and sound like something more akin to a $50 – $60 IEM.
Their design is basic yet funky looking.
Build quality is on par with far more expensive in-ears.

I mean, if you’re on a really tight budget, you could do far worse than the Quarks!
If you’re a reader with a fatter wallet, give them a whirl. You may well be surprised at how well they perform.

Thanks as always to my readers and *sponsors!

*As a note moving forward, sponsors and partners of the blog can be found in the sidebar.

Thank you again for taking the time to read my reviews from this little corner of a vast and competitive industry!

Paul.

Sennheiser HD820.

Sennheiser sent me their HD820 to review. The first pair of closed back headphones I’ve reviewed over £1000.
Are they a hit or miss? read on to learn more…

Disclaimer:
Sennheiser sent these in for review. I am not paid or sponsored by Sennheiser. The views in this review are unbiased and my own.

Emily and Sennheiser kindly provided these for review & they currently retail for £1,799.

You can find them here by following this link:
https://en-uk.sennheiser.com/high-end-headphones-audiophiles-hd-820

Review equipment:
Sennheiser HD820.
Sennheiser Single ended and various balanced cables to match.
Schiit Audio Jotunheim. ( Balanced/Single ended DAC/Headphone amp/Pre. )
Eufonika H7. ( Single ended Tube Headphone amp. )
Musician Audio Pegasus. ( Balanced/Single ended DAC. )
MacBook Pro 2015 15″ Retina.
Qobuz Studio Premier.
Technics SL1200MKII.
Ortofon Quintet Red.
KECES AUDIO ePhono and linear psu.
AFAudio mains and interconnect cables throughout.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners x2.
Custom Cans balanced cable with pigtail. ( 4 pole XLR with pigtail to 4.4mm Pentaconn. )
Grado quarter inch to 3.5mm stereo stepdown pigtail.

Custom Cans to the rescue with some very nice balanced cable options.

Music:
Various new and old albums on vinyl.
Qobuz streamed over Bluetooth or direct over USB.

What’s in the box:

  • Headphones HD 820 (closed, dynamic headphones)
  • connection cable: ¼” (6.35 mm) stereo jack plug (connected ex works), unbalanced
  • 4.4 mm stereo jack plug, balanced
  • USB flash drive (SD-U16L version) with instruction manual (as PDF file) and individually diffuse-field frequency response curve
  • instruction manual
  • storage box
  • microfiber cloth

Spec:

  • Impedance 300 Ohms.
  • Frequency response (Headphones) 12 – 43800 Hz (-3 dB) 6 – 48000 Hz (-10 dB).
  • Sound pressure level (SPL) 103 dB at 1 kHz, 1V.
  • Ear couplingaround the ear.
  • Jack plug 6.35 mm / 4.4 mm XLR-4 ( optional ).
  • Cable length 3m.
  • Weight 360g without cable.
  • Transducer principle ( headphones ) dynamic, closed.
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Build & finish:

Another presentation box! And a nice one at that.
Sennheisers HD820 are built to a high standard, as is to be expected from such a renowned brand.
The styling is unique, yet also a little reminiscent of the Sony MDR SA5000 of yore.
I warn you now, the glass panels are finger print, lint and smear magnets! If your OCD like myself, you’ll find youself cleaning them a LOT! Aside from this they truly are a beauty to behold.
The adjustment clicks are smooth and solid.
Headband and inner parts of the ear pads in exquisite alcantara.
The mat finish metal is flawless, has a wonderfully smooth satin feel and looks perfect!
What little plastics there are, are smooth, strong and used sparingly.
As for the cables, we find two very well made cables with a tough sleeving.
The plugs are constructed robustly, yet retain an ellegance in their style.
And the cables snap into place into each cup with a solid click!

Well done Sennheiser, in this section at least, you’ve knocked this one out of the park!

Comfort:
The HD820 is comfortable, but it takes a bit of adjustment to get a decent fit . Clamping force is light to medium and the headphone isn’t too heavy either, but be aware that the light clamping force adds to the issue of getting the right fit.
They fit my head and ears pretty well and are also very comfortable over glasses which is a bonus!
With sublime microfiber ear pads that both look beautiful and are functional in the same instance, I could wear them for hours without any discomfort, heat or fatigue. I just wish there was a little more clamping force & toe-in adjustment. ( Meaning I wish I could turn the fronts of them in toward my temples more. )
The cables are not too heavy either and I heard no microphonics whilst in use.

Sound:
At 300ohm the Sennheiser HD820 need some power behind them.
Luckily with my two amplifiers of choice this was not an issue.
The Jotunheim did particularly well with it’s raw grunt and balanced out,
although slightly lacking the organic feel & warmth of the tubes of the H7.
Both were fed by the Musician Audio Pegasus DAC and KECES Audio phonostage,
both of which offer a clean, noisless signal to the amps.

Soundstage is surprisingly wide and spacious considering these are a closed back headphone.
they offer a lot of headroom and depth, and separation is pretty damn good. I was able to pin point the various instruments or vocalists in live recordings or acoustic tracks with ease.

Low end carrys some heft and texture, hitting hard and sweeping low with little difficulty.
The midrange is the HD820’s sweet spot, it’s full bodied yet full of grace and detail.
It adds some accuracy to the mid bass and rolls into the higher end of the frequency range smoothly.
It’s quite forward but doesn’t drown out the rest of the soundscape.
Highs are articulate, fast paced and super crisp without sounding too bright.

All together creating a super detailed headphone with a surprising soundstage and image.


Final thoughts and recommendation:
I was very impressed with the HD820.
Sonically and aesthetically they are superb, and I love the glass panels.
The build quality is good, although I found a few little gripes with adjustability and getting the right fit.
Meaning the comfort levels were great but at this price point could be a little better.
Do I think they’re worth the £1,799 asking price?
If the gripes I mentioned before were ironed out I would say yes.
The sound and aesthetics tip the scales toward a yes.
Personally I would look for a better deal.
It’s close, but I think I would say yes I recommend them, but with reservations.

Thanks & Sponsors:
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Many thanks, my best regards, stay safe.
Paul.

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